European Exploration of the South West African Coast (from the Niger Estuary to Natal)



Diogo Cao reached the Congo River Estuary in 1483; on a second journey in 1485 he reached the Namib desert. In 1488 Bartolomeo Diaz reached the Cabo de Buona Esperanca, the Cape of Good Hope - because the coast continued in an eastward direction, and a sea route leading to India might be found beyond.
The coast between the Niger and the Cape was little attractive to the Portuguese. South of Cameroon there were few trading opportunities, the most notable being the Kingdom of Kongo. The King of Kongo accepted Portuguese missionaries into his country. The southernmost regions of Africa - modern Namibia and South Africa's Cape Province - were inhabited by bushmen which were rather self-sufficient and had little to offer.
The pioneers in long-distance exploration, trade and conquest suffered from hitherto unknown logistical problems, not the least of which was the disease of scurvy - caused by lack of vitamins in the diet of sailors, over an extended period of time. The Dutch V.O.C. established Kaapstad (Cape Town) in 1652 as a port combined with a farming community (the Boers), the Cape Colony, to address the problem. For the English, Saint Helena functioned as a stopover en route to India; they took possession in 1659.



EXTERNAL
FILES
The Coast of Africa
History of Africa : Europeans get a Foothold, from Robinson Research World of Knowledge
Portuguese African Discoveries, from The Catholic Church in Tropical Africa 1445-1650 by Joseph Kennedy O.S.P.
DOCUMENTS
REFERENCE Strangers from beyond the Sea, pp.32-35; Settlement built from a Fort of Sand, pp.36-37, in : Readers Digest Illustrated History of South Africa, Pleasantville NY 1988 [G]
Chapter Two : An African Prelude, pp.22-35, in : Angus Konstam, Historical Atlas of Exploration, 1492-1600, NY : Checkmark Books 2000 [G]



This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on June 23rd 2003, last revised on May 11th 2006

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